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|Man and Beast|
(HinduDharma: Religion In General)
Animals grow transversely. That is why they are called "tiryak" in Sanskrit. Man who grows upright ought to have, unlike beasts, a high ideal before him. He will then obtain more happiness than all other creatures. But what do we see in reality? Man experiences greater sorrow than all other creatures. Animals do not know so much desire, so much sorrow and so much humiliation, as do humans. More important, they are innocent of sin. It is we humans who keep sinning and suffering as a consequence.
In one sense it seems to me that Isvara has not endowed us with the same advantages that he has endowed animals with. We are not fitted with weapons of defense. If a cow feels threatened it has horns to defend itself. The tiger has its claws. We have neither horns nor claws. Sheep have hair to protect them from the cold of winter, so too other animals. But man is not similarly equipped. So he cannot repulse an attack; nor can he run fast like the horse, which has no horns but is fleet-footed. Against all these handicaps, man has the advantage of being more intelligent than all other creatures.
In order to protect himself from the cold of winter, man removes the hair (fur) of animals and weaves it into rugs. When he wants to travel fast he yokes a horse to his cart. God has furnished man with this kind of skill; though he has neither claws nor horns to defend himself, a human being can forge weapons on his own. With the strength of his intelligence he remains the master of all other creatures and also rules over the entire world of inert matter.
All species of animals have their own habitats. Some types of bear that are native to the cold climes do not thrive in our country. The elephant is a denizen of the forests of India and some other countries of South-East Asia and Africa, but it does not flourish in a cold climate. But man inhabits the entire earth. He uses his brains to make any part of this planet fit for him to live.
But, even with his superior intelligence, man suffers. All hardships stem from the fact of birth. How can one save oneself from being born again? But, then, what is the cause of our birth? The wrongs committed by us are the cause of our birth and we have taken this body of flesh and blood to suffer punishment for the same. Suppose a certain number of whiplashes are to be administered according to the law. If the body perishes after ten lashes, we take another birth to suffer the remaining strokes. The sins we commit in satisfying our desires are the cause of our being born again and again. If there is no "doing", there will be no birth also. Anger is responsible for much of the evil we do and desire is at the root of it. It is of the utmost importance that we banish desire from our hearts. But it is not possible to remain without any action after having cultivated so many attachments. If the attachments were done away with we would cease to sin.
What is the cause of desire? Desire arises from the belief that there is something other than ourselves and our being attached to it. In truth it is the one Sivam that manifests itself as everything.
The cow sees its reflection in the mirror and charges it imagining it to be another cow. If a man sees his own image thus, does he think that there is another person in the mirror? He is not perturbed by his image because he knows that it is himself. Similarly, all that we see is one and the same thing. Desire springs from our belief in the existence of a second entity, and it causes anger, which, in turn, plunges us in sin. A new birth becomes inevitable now. If we are enlightened enough to perceive that all objects are one, there will be no ground for desire. There must be an object other than ourselves, a second entity, to be desired. No desire means no anger and no sin. In this state there will be neither any "doing" nor any birth. And, finally, there will be no sorrow.
How do we obtain such enlightenment or jnana? Our body is sustained by our mother's milk. It is Amba who nourishes us with the milk of jnana. She is indeed the personification of jnana. We will be rewarded with the light of wisdom if we firmly hold her lotus feet and dissolve ourselves in her. One who does so becomes God.
The first step in this process of enlightenment is to make a man truly a man, by ensuring that he does not live on an animal level. The second step is to raise him to the heights of divinity. All religions have this goal. They may represent different systems of thought and philosophy. But their concern ought to be that man is not condemned as he is today to a life of desire and anger. All religions speak in one voice that man must be rendered good and that he must be invested with the qualities of love, humility, serenity and the spirit of sacrifice.
For a general background, please see here